Books of the year: Page turners

Date: 06-12-2012
Source: The Economist

Economics and business

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty. By Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson. Crown; 544 pages; $30. Profile; £25. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk
Nations fail because their leaders are greedy, selfish and ignorant of history. A powerful analysis that looks beyond the obvious and is full of surprises.

Private Empire: Exxon Mobil and American Power. By Steve Coll. Penguin Press; 704 pages; $36. Allen Lane; £25. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk
A forensic look at the biggest and, by some measures, the most profitable of the Western “supermajor” oil companies.

The New Industrial Revolution: Consumers, Globalisation and the End of Mass Production. By Peter Marsh. Yale University Press; 320 pages; $35 and £25. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk
A fizzing analysis of the history and geography of manufacturing and where it is heading by an editor at the Financial Times.

Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II. By Arthur Herman. Random House; 432 pages; $28. Presidio Press; £17.99. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk
How America’s moribund military-industrial complex was able to respond to President Franklin Roosevelt’s call to arms with an astounding show of energy.

Management in 10 Words. By Terry Leahy. Crown Business; 320 pages; $25. Random House Business; £20 . Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk
A surprising and incisive management page-turner that has interesting things to say about everything from the evolution of British society to the art of transforming huge organisations, by someone who should know—a one-time Tesco boss, Sir Terry Leahy.

Science and Technology  

Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic. By David Quammen. W.W. Norton; 592 pages; $28.95. Bodley Head; £20. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk
A respected and highly readable American science writer argues that zoonotic infections, such as AIDS, Ebola and Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever, that pass from animals to humans, will be the cause of the next great human pandemic. The only unknowns are where and when?

The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution. By Faramerz Dabhoiwala. OUP USA; 496 pages; $34.95. Allen Lane; £25. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk
A brilliantly researched account of the original (and arguably more important) sexual revolution that took place in the 18th century, when, for the first time, sexual relations and tastes were seen as largely a private matter for individuals to determine rather than a busybody state to police.

The Signal and the Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail but Some Don’t. By Nate Silver. Penguin Press; 544 pages; $27.95. Allen Lane; £25. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk
The Zen master to American election-watchers, who correctly called the result in all 50 states during this year’s presidential election, turns his gimlet eye on probability theory and why people should try to be more like foxes than hedgehogs—and focus on making predictions in the way that gamblers do.

Bad Pharma. By Ben Goldacre. Faber and Faber; 488 pages; $28. Fourth Estate; £13.99. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk
How doctors and the patients they treat are hobbled by needless ignorance within the $600 billion pharmaceutical industry, which does not always publish the truth about whether its new drugs work, whether they are better than drugs already on the market and whether their side effects are a price worth paying.

Ocean of Life: The Fate of Man and the Sea. By Callum Roberts. Viking; 416 pages; $30. Allen Lane; £25. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk
Overfishing, global warming and pollution threaten to transform the ocean—and perhaps life as we know it. We had better fix the problem while we still can.

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